A year ago, before before my buddy Zach and I were welcomed into the NBN family, I was writing for Niners Hive and learning how to do this sports writing gig. At that time, I opined that there were five 49er veterans who needed to be very afraid for their jobs, because of the new regime in Santa Clara, and with the addition of so many draft picks, UDFAs, and free agency signings.
Well, here we are in the late summer of 2018, and I ultimately batted .600 in my predictions. Zane Beadles is gone (no tears shed here), and Chris Jones was also released (okay, he was just brought back, but something tells me he wouldn’t have darkened the team’s doorstep if Cedric Thornton hadn’t decided to retire). As I was writing this, I found out that Eli Harold had been traded to the Lions, which was late in coming and was a surprise, but vindication is vindication.
I was wrong about Ronald Blair, and I turned out to be very wrong about Garret Celek (see my piece on him where I ate crow).
So who do I predict will be leaving soon, either through being cut, waived, or traded? Well, here goes…and remember that I have the right to be wrong about any or all of these men.
Jimmie Ward: The 49ers drafted Jimmie Ward in 2014 in the first round, with the hope that he would be the answer to an anemic defense and downright atrocious interception numbers. The experiment with Ward has now gone on for four years; at three different positions; through four head coaches, and four defensive coordinators…and he’s been injured for three of those four seasons. The Niners exercised the fifth year option on his contract not long ago, but guaranteed money isn’t the best reason to keep a player on — especially when you factor in that San Francisco isn’t breaking its salary cap and has some financial flexibility.
Ward is running out of time, out of second chances, and out of opportunities to intercept passes (this happened all of twice in the last two seasons) and break them up (also not something he has excelled at). K’Waun Williams has been impressive in the nickel corner role, Adrian Colbert is the 49ers’ free safety and Ward has really struggled at outside corner. And the chances are, sadly, that Ward will get hurt yet again before the season is out, if he’s playing at all. Adios, Jimmie.
Victor Bolden: During the preseason last year and the first two weeks of the regular season, most observers thought Bolden had a bright career ahead of him in San Francisco. After all, he’d put up some impressive numbers at Oregon State, and he really knew how to return kicks (a return for a touchdown in the preseason, and 71 return yards in Week 2). Since then, he didn’t do much…except to go on IR in December, and get hit with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL rules on PEDs.
And it goes further. Bolden has size problems, strength problems, and pass retention problems, and now he has competition problems as well, in the form of Dante Pettis, Richie James and D.J. Reed. Those three have done more in two preseason games to get the attention of this reporter than Bolden has done in two years. It’s not looking good for Bolden’s tenure hopes.
Aldrick Robinson: Niners Nation has called Robinson “a fourth or fifth receiver who can occasionally emerge with a surprise big game.” If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it is. Robinson has had his moments in the NFL, but they mostly weren’t while wearing red and gold: he had 20 receptions for 323 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games with the Atlanta Falcons, and was part of an upset of the Chicago Bears in 2013 when Robinson played for Washington.
Frankly, Robinson’s time in the spotlight last year only happened because the team didn’t have a lot of other options. Pierre Garçon went out with a neck injury, Kendrick Bourne wasn’t bringing much to the table in the first half of the season, and Marquise Goodwin was dealing with immense personal troubles. I think Robinson is outgunned this year, although I wish him well on another team.
Cole Wick: You know, him? The guy who played college football at the University of the Incarnate Word, and was the first player from that fine institution to make an NFL roster? The one who had 2 receptions on 3 targets, for a total of 18 yards and one first down in his rookie year in Detroit? Yeah, him.
Perhaps calling Wick a veteran isn’t correct. After all, he was signed to the SF practice squad on October 18th of last year, after Cole Hikutini was promoted to the 53 man roster. Wick hasn’t played a regular season snap for the 49ers at all, and didn’t play any kind of snap for them until the preseason game a week ago against Houston, when he caught a single 10-yard reception. In any case, he is a super longshot to make the team, and whatever money is mentioned in his reserve/futures contract reverts to the 49ers if they cut him. Which they probably will, considering that they got a long look at him last year and didn’t even put him on the field.
Tyvis Powell: Another VINO (Veteran In Name Only), Powell joined the 49ers’ active roster in December 2017 after a stint on the practice squad. In three games, he played 17 defensive snaps and 53 special teams snaps. Before that, he had bounced around the league: Seattle (twice), Cleveland, and Indianapolis all showed some momentary interest in Powell and then waived or released him.
Assuming for the moment that Eric Reid doesn’t return to the team, that injuries or trades don’t happen to Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams, Greg Mabin, Tarvarus McFadden, and D.J. Reed all at once, and that John Lennon stays dead, Powell doesn’t have a place at the table this year. Wrong place, wrong time.
Let’s go neuter the Colts this week, fellow Niners fans!